Diego Simeone has heaped praise on his “reinvented” Atletico Madrid team in the wake of their vital 3-1 win over Sevilla on Sunday.
Goals from Antoine Griezmann, Koke and Diego Godin secured the three points, with the visitors made to be content with a late consolation goal.
Atleti’s win closes the gap on third-placed Sevilla to just two points.
The Rojiblancos have fought to remain in the top four this season, but they have now opened up a five-point chasm on the chasing pack.
“First we can talk about ourselves because we had a really tough end to last season. I have always said that,” Simeone said.
“I think this season is the most difficult since I’ve been at the club.
“We’ve had injures to (Jan) Oblak, Augusto (Fernandez) and Tiago.
“Atletico couldn’t win at the beginning of the season but we reinvented ourselves in order to turn the situation around.
“I think the team is fitter but we have to be calm because there are 10 matches left.”
Simeone says Sevilla’s standing and form reflects the importance of his team’s win.
“It’s clear that we have a five-point gap between us and fifth place because Villarreal and Real Sociedad couldn’t win and that’s important for us,” he added.
“I think Sevilla are playing a fantastic season and are rightly praised by the press and the footballing world.
“So I think this amplifies how good a result this is for us today.
“So we believe we can carry on in this vein for the rest of the season.”